Nov 29: Return to Me…Zechariah 1:1-6; Luke 1:10, 21; 2:25-28, 36-38; 3:15
The Zechariah text called the nation to repentance. Yahweh used “repent” or “shub” 6 times in this section. Not only did God call them to repentance, Yahweh promised also to repent (repent to me and I will repent to you…). God’s call to the nation of Judah was a call to eagerly anticipate and expect God to do something.
The Luke passages above express the first three chapters of his Gospel—which served as his introduction. Luke repeatedly shared with us the people who were waiting for God to do something. Zechariah, Anna, Simeon, and the people were those who waited eagerly for God to do something great. One of the key characteristics of people in Exile was the eager waiting, and expectation for something to happen.
The prophet’s role in Zechariah was to proclaim a new reality, an alternate world view. For Zechariah, the people needed hope, forgiveness, and a new start. The beginning of the book includes 9 cycles that illustrate Yahweh’s forgiveness for the people. The prophetic text also includes a reminder that there was no need to fast and mourn, because they were a people freed from exile. They could celebrate. The book ended with the promise of healing, forgiveness, and a new relationship with their God. They would mourn the loss of their past, home, and former relationship with Yahweh—however, they would again receive hope. The powerful illustration with God cleaning Joshua (the priest’s) clothes and promising to wipe their sins away in a day (Zech 3) was a clear indication that they were loved.
The coming of Jesus also brought this hope to a people in a different type of exile. Rome was in charge and Jerusalem was “occupied Jerusalem” which was only allowed to do what Rome approved. Herod was a corrupt king who was technically not Jewish, and courted Roman favors for peace. The people longed for a true leader, one who would turn them back to God. The birth of Jesus, while unnoticed, was one that was eagerly expected. In the past preachers have suggested that all Israel eagerly waited for the Messiah. Stories abound suggesting that women waited to become the “virgin” carriers of the Christ. However, the Gospels suggest that people went about their business, some expected the birth, but most were ignorant of the issue. In Matthew’s Gospel only a handful of Persian magicians (pagans at that) came to see Jesus. A paranoid king was troubled and threatened but did not feel the Messiah was important. The religious scholars indicated the location, but made no effort to search with the magi. In Luke’s Gospel the birth was in a quiet home, feed trough, and while Joseph and Mary were visiting another town. A small group of dirty shepherds came to see the birth, but Jesus’ coming to this world was quiet, unnoticeable, and small.
Yet, Luke took the time to teach us that people were waiting. Some eagerly waited outside the temple for God to act. An old priestly couple continued to pray and have intimacy hoping God would give them a son, to carry on the priestly line. A man (the text doesn’t tell us he was a priest) who hung around the temple took Jesus from his parents and preached a simple sermon—“God, now I can die for you have shown me there is hope…” An old widowed woman who also lived at the temple and preached to people, also spoke about Jesus to people like her and Simon. Even when John the Baptist began to preach people listened, hoping he was the Messiah.
Luke shared with us that there were people, over 30 years, who continued to wait and expect God to do something. The coming of the Messiah was a story surrounded by expectation.
People need hope, a story, and a new way to view life. As Jan Holton wrote, concerning people in captivity: “The ability to imagine a future is a lifeline for a refugee…Imagination is a requirement for hope. If we cannot imagine a future that opens to possibility, we fall into despair and hopelessness.” Do we have hope for the future? Do we view the holiday season as a new way to view life?
While many wait eagerly to open gifts and spend the holidays with family—this season is an opportunity to seek God. What are we eager for God to do in 2016? How has God been working through Jesus’ people in Advent Conspiracy and what more will be done to bring honor to Jesus? Thanksgiving is late this year, and Black Friday falls less than one month before the big day. How will we fill the next 28 days?
Will we spend time seeking God, and what we have been called to do?
Will we eagerly wait to see how many people will be helped through Living Water, and the Gateway Domestic Violence Drop In Shelter?
Will we share our faith with people and try to invite them to Advent Conspiracy?
Will we, with joy and excitement, look forward to 2016 and ask Jesus, “What will we do together this year?”
Do we believe that Jesus can provide a new narrative to our lives and future in his Empire?